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Top Chinese general tells Mattis to his face: ‘The two of us can become good friends’

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis meets with Chinese General Xu Qiliang at the People's Liberation Army's Bayi Building in Beijing, China. June 28, 2018. (Department of Defense/Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)
July 04, 2018

Last week, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis embarked on a two-day visit to China, during which he met with Chinese Gen. Xu Qiliang, the vice chairman of the Central Military Commission.

The two met at the ceremonial Chinese Defense Ministry building in central Beijing, referred to as Bayi.

Xu reportedly smiled and told Mattis: “I believe the two of us can become good friends,” according to The Washington Times.

Xu is a close ally of Chinese President Xi Jinping and is considered the most powerful military figure in China.

The two met for an hour on Thursday, marking Mattis’ last meeting of the visit.

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“It’s hoped that China and the United States will further enhance mutual trust, deepen cooperation, handle disputes properly, manage risks and work together for better relations between the armed forces of the two countries,” Xu said, according to China Daily.

Xu added that the two nations should work collaboratively to establish their military partnership as “a stabilizer for bilateral relations” that works toward peace and stability in the region and around the world.

Mattis reiterated the necessity of the two nations in bilateral relations.

In his first trip to China recently, Mattis emphasized a focus on strategic interests. He expressed a desire to understand and manage the relationship between the powerful military forces of both nations and avoid potential conflict.

statement released by Pentagon Chief Spokesperson Dana White said: “The leaders discussed a broad range of defense issues and the importance of substantive military-to-military contacts to reduce risk and strategic uncertainty. Secretary Mattis acknowledged potential areas of cooperation, including shared interest in the denuclearization of North Korea.”

Mattis and Xu also discussed situations in Asia-Pacific, Taiwan and the disputed South China Sea. China has taken a firm stance on these issues.

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After Mattis’ first visit to China, Xi Jinping acknowledged the differences that persist between the two nations.

“While seeing the existing common interests of China and the United States, we also do not shun the differences that exist between the two sides,” Xi said.

“Regarding the issue of China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, our attitude is firm and clear. From the territory left by our ancestors, (we will not) give up even one inch,” he added.

China vowed not to cause chaos while maintaining its claim to the disputed islands in the South China Sea, which they have significantly militarized in recent years.

They also deem Taiwan a “wayward province” that should be dealt with using military action.

American military leaders are concerned about China’s overzealous military commanders reacting to U.S. surveillance planes and warships in the South China Sea.

After Mattis’ meeting with General Xu, he stopped in Japan, where he said: “Our relationship with China will be defined by our ability to competitively coexist.”

“We look to cooperate where and when possible, and we will compete vigorously when we must,” Mattis added.